Getting off the train at Veraval station, I located my driver and set off. On being told that the first thing I would like to do, is visit the temple of Somnath, he nodded approvingly.
Somnath. Lord Shiva, the great God of destruction in the Hindu Trinity, wears the crescent moon as his diadem. *This is to symbolize that he has transcended time. He is eternal. In Sanskrit, Soma means the moon or the nectar of eternal life. He is therefore called Somnath or Lord of Time/Eternity.
Shiva is most commonly worshiped in the form of a linga.
The Somnath temple is a shrine of great religious importance to the Hindus. It is the first of the 12 jyotirlingas that are held sacred by them. In Sanskrit, jyoti means illumination.The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva is worshiped as a column of light.
This temple was destroyed 6 times by invaders and rebuilt each time. In my opinion, in any temple that has been plundered and destroyed so many times, it is rather improbable that the original idol would have survived intact. My hypothesis is that the temple was originally a great underground cavern with an opening at the top. A shaft of sunlight piercing through or perhaps moonlight filtering in was bound to strike awe in the minds of the onlookers. This was possibly the first linga worshiped here, making it a jyotirlinga in the truest sense of the word. Raiders may have destroyed this natural phenomenon, causing it to be replaced by a man-made temples and idols.
Built on the seashore, the Temple was probable the first structure any approaching ship/boat would see. A tribute to the great Lord and protector of the kingdom. Clearly, they must have been sea-faring people. All ships would seek his blessing before setting out. Any invading force would have to deal with Him first. Even today, my driver told me, Veraval is one of India’s biggest ship/boat building centres.
I may of-course be entirely wrong about the above.
As in many other places of worship, photography is forbidden within the temple precincts and cameras are not allowed inside. A notice at the security check point clearly states that ‘Ladies not allowed in improper and disrespectful clothing’. It goes on to elaborate, ‘Pants, skirts, dresses not allowed’. You can however, enter in jeans and a kurta like I did or pants and long sleeved tops, like some other girls I saw there.
Entering, I found I was just in time for the evening prayers. I watched as they washed and bathed the idol; wrapped it in fresh cloth and covered it with flowers and garlands offered by devotees. The prayers commenced. Feeling specially blessed, I paid my obeisance and thanked the Lord for his benevolence.
In the Temple courtyard, there is an arrow and a signboard, proclaiming it to be the first point of land all the way from Antarctica, on this longitude. I don’t know how true this is, perhaps Google maps can tell.
Praising the Lord again, I proceeded to my next destination – the lovely Union Territory of Diu.
*The Hindus follow a lunar calender. The moon, therefore is a allegory for time.